“Tomorrow’s robots will not be marketed by today’s start-ups” claims Pellenc

Friday January 22 2021 by Vitisphere

 In its robotics R&D work, Pellenc focuses mainly on “repetitive tasks such as tillage or containment spraying. We are also planning to automate pre-pruning or even pruning”. In its robotics R&D work, Pellenc focuses mainly on “repetitive tasks such as tillage or containment spraying. We are also planning to automate pre-pruning or even pruning”. - Photo credit : DR

The managing director of French machine manufacturer Pellenc is in no doubt – only companies like his, with a sound distribution network, will be able to win over winegrowers and encourage them to switch to robots within the next decade or so.

According to you, start-ups currently launching autonomous robots will be short-lived. Why?

Jean-Marc Gialis: Some of them are actually already struggling. The market is not ready, and as they have nothing else to sell, they cannot fund themselves. The health crisis is making them slightly more vulnerable because investors have become a little more cautious. Several start-ups have asked us to help them. I think that only those with support from a manufacturer will be able to ride the storm.

 

Do you think that only large manufacturers and distributors specialised in robotics will be able to pull through?

Absolutely, because only those who are already well-established will be able to win the confidence of winegrowers at demos and reassure them of their ability to maintain their robots. At Pellenc, we lay great store by close relations with our customers and we involve the directors of our subsidiaries and our major distribution centres in our R&D programmes so that we meet needs out in the field.

 

So the service provided to the winegrower is more important than the robot itself?

This is already true of conventional tractors. Customers buy a service before they buy a product. This will be even truer tomorrow with robots because they will no longer be able to detect breakdowns and repair them themselves. I can also see the precision of GPS technology increasing rapidly and I think that dozens of companies will soon be able to offer quality autonomous equipment. It's going to be difficult to stand out from the crowd.

 

What do you mean by “soon”? When do you think we will really see robots in vineyards?

The technology is already here. Customers are not ready for it yet, but as 5G technology is rolled out, it should make it easier for intelligent tools to go mainstream. Legislation and insurance must also move forward. In 20 years’ time, robots will be vineyard staples.

 

Is Pellenc also in the process of developing its own robots?

Of course. An in-house team of fifteen people has been working on them for years. As we don't need subsidies, we don't make this public knowledge.

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